#201 Tea Cream

A good dessert to make if people are round because you can make it a couple of days in advance.

The tea in question for this tea cream recipe is green gunpowder tea. Green tea is a strange thing – I don’t ever drink it because it tastes of a combination of washing-up water and seaweed. Bleurgh. However, having it with cream and sugar did appeal slightly more; cream and sugar never taste bad, now do they!?

FYI: green tea comes from the same plant as our more familiar ‘black’ tea (e.g. PG Tips, Tetley, etc), but is unfermented thus retains its natural green colour, as opposed to black tea which turns its dark colour due to oxidisation during fermentation. Green tea is popular in China and Japan as we all know – but also in Muslim counties where it is forbidden to drink fermented tea. How bizarre. Anyone know why this is?

To make this tea cream mix together half a pint each of double and single cream in a jug. Pour around three-quarters of it into a small saucepan along with two tablespoons of sugar and an ounce of green gunpowder tea. Slowly bring to a boil, though keep on tasting it as you don’t want the tea to be ‘over-stewed’. Pour the hot cream into a bowl through a sieve. Taste again; if too strong add more cream. Use either a packet of powdered or five leaves of leaf gelatine to make the cream set. It’s best to follow the instructions on the packet at this point but generally you dissolve the powdered stuff in a little hot water and stir it into the cream, or soak leaf gelatine in cold water until soft and stir into the still-hot cream. Pour the whole lot into a mould – buy a fancy one if you can, I did. Cover with cling-film, allow to cool and then place in the fridge until needed. Turn it out onto a plate – you will need to dip the mould in hot water briefly to help loosen the jelly, I left it in too long and it went a little liquid around the edges. Serves five or six.

#201 Tea Cream. A funny one this one. I really liked the creaminess of the ‘jelly’, but the tea taste – though strong when hot, diminished greatly when chilled so I couldn’t really tell it was there. I certainly liked it enough to give it a second go at some point though. It did look very good in its fancy shape. 6/10.

#136-137 Sponge Cake II and Butter Cream I

April has not been a bumper Grigson month like March was. This is due to the fact I am uber-busy with my PhD work at the minute, plus I’m doing the tiling in the kitchen too which does not help. No indeedy. Anyways, enough of the excuses… A kick up the arse came from the fact I had to provide a cake for the Dictyostelium group lab meeting, so I thought I’d do something straightforward – a sponge cake with butter cream. Great stuff; they have separate recipes in the book, so it would be two Grigsons with one stone. There are two recipes for sponge cakes and two for butter cream in English Food and I have already attempted one of each (see here and here), although in a funny order as you can see – this is because the Butter Cream I required a sugar thermometer, which I didn’t have at the time.

Ok, here’s the cake recipe. A word of advice though before I carry on – do not attempt this cake unless you have either an electric mixer or a very strong wanking hand…

Start off by whisking three whole eggs together with 6 ounces of caster sugar until light and frothy – this took 10 minutes using the Kitchen Aid on full whack. Stop when the eggs have reached the ribbon stage. Whilst you are waiting for that to happen, heat the oven to 190°C and grease and lightly flour two 7 inch sandwich tins. Also, gently melt 2 ounces of slightly salted butter with two tablespoons of water. Once melted, leave to cool until at least tepid. When the eggs are whisked, gently stir in the butter. Now fold in 4 ounces of self-raising flour by sieving a small amount in at a time and gently folding it in with a metal spoon to prevent the air bubbles from popping. Divide between the two sandwich tins and bake for 15-20 minutes until cooked – use a skewer, or whatever, you know the drill. Cool on a wire rack. Griggers says jam and cream is the best, or a nice butter cream, like this one…

The butter cream can be made whilst you are waiting for the cake to cook – especially if it takes two attempts to get the bugger right!

Melt 4 ounces of caster sugar and a tablespoon or two of water in a small saucepan. Once dissolved, raise the heat and boil it until it reached the ‘soft crack’ stack, or 135°C. Be careful here: use a very small pan – too large and the sugar overheats too easily becoming a caramel, which will ruin the whole thing. Whilst it is heating up, put two egg yolks into a bowl and lightly whisk them. When the sugar is ready vigorously beat it into the eggs with a whisk. The mixture thickens up as the yolks are cooked by the hot sugar. When just tepid, beat in 4 ounces of unsalted butter in small amounts until it is all amalgamated. Once cool, you can add all sots of flavourings – I went with some vanilla, but Griggers recommends plain chocolate or a tablespoon of slaked coffee granules. Just go crazy, kids!

#136 Sponge Cake II – 9/10. When Griggers this recipe is foolproof, she did not say it was foolproof and brilliant. The sponge extremely light and not at all rubbery like the usual Genoese sponge on account (I assume) the addition of the melted butter. This is the best sponge cake recipe I have used. Excellent – go make it right now!

#137 Butter Cream I – also 9/10. Griggers totally slagged-off the half-butter (or even margarine, heaven forbid!), half-icing sugar as essentially awful. Having a soft spot for that type of butter cream I was keen to see the difference. The difference is huge – I know it is a bit of a faff using the sugar thermometer etc., but it is well worth it. Once you’ve tried it, ladies and gents, you’ll never go back…

With great wisdoms comes great agony (and #49)

First off all I should apologise for my total blog tardiness of late; I have been very busy at University recently and so I’ve been working and cooking tried and tested recipes from (sharp intake of breath) OTHER cookbooks. I feel like I’ve been unfaithful to our Jane…

Today found out that I will be having my wisdom teeth out on the 15th May, which is the day Greg goes on his cruise and is also my Mum’s birthday, so I don’t know if I’ll have anyone to go with me! Not being able to eat however, will somewhat hamper my cooking, so expect a reduction in blog action! I am calling for help from you, the beloved blog reader – I need recipes for food that requires no chewing. I will obviously be making good use of my ice cream maker next week.

Any road, I did do some cooking – or, in fact, baking – again at the weekend. I am all enthusiastic about bringing back the old tradition of high tea. There was a spot on the BBC’s Breakfast programme with Prue Leith talking about how people don’t know what Eccles Cakes or parkin and other British fayre are, never mind not baking them themselves! I am on a one-man mission to bring it back. I shall open up a lovely tea shop…

I did (#49) Orange cake and invited Joff round again. I had an orange in and wanted to try the pound cake again from last week; the recipe is exactly the same, except the grated zest of an orange and the juice of half is added to the mixture. This time I baked it for only 30 minutes and it came out perfect. I suppose no one – not even Jane Grigson – is perfect. The best bit of the cake-making was the butter cream. 4 ounces of sugar and the juice of the other half of the orange were boiled until the sugar had reached the soft-ball stage. I didn’t have a sugar thermometer, but managed to do it by dropping small amounts into cold water and feeling it between my fingers. Easy. Thank goodness for my ever useful Larousse Gastronomique. This was whisked into 2 whipped egg yolks until thick and fluffy. When warm, 4 ounces of very soft butter was whipped in until even more thick and fluffy. Yum. Hopefully Greg and Joff think I have improved on the previous ones – hopefully they’ll mark it highly!

#49 Orange cake – 8/10. A fine cake indeed! I’m not going to mark it higher, because, although very good, more extravagant cakes, like the parsnip cake or divine treats like sticky toffee pudding beat cake hands down! I think I’ve nailed the pound cake now!

#47 Pound Cake and #48 Buttercream II

As well as the lovely orangeade, I thought I’d make a cake. As much as I love cooking and cake, I don’t often make them. So I thought I’d go for the basic plain sponge cake – a pound cake being the easiest because so you put all the ingredients in a mixer in one go. What could possibly go wrong with that!? The parsnip cake was very good, but seemed very easy; I reckon the only way to tell if one is a good baker is to make a basic cake very well. My favorite filling for sponge cake is butter cream, and I’ve always used my Mum’s recipe, which is simply icing sugar and butter (in fact, being a child of rationing in the UK, she uses margarine). There are two butter cream recipes in English Food, but the first requires a sugar thermometer and since I don’t have one of those (but if anyone fancies buying me one…), I went for (#48) Butter cream II.

The whole idea behind the original pound cake is that the ingredients all weigh a pound EACH! This is of course overdoing things in the modern home, I think the original recipe must have been for housekeepers making cakes for households. Therefore, nowadays all the ingredients weight a pound altogether: 4 ounces each of softened butter (if you keep it in the fridge, put it in the microwave on a medium setting for 45 seconds), sieved self-raising flour and vanilla sugar (see previous entry), along with 2 medium eggs (which should be 4 ounces). Add a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of ground almonds, which apparently make the final cake more moist, plus a level teaspoon of baking powder. Put all the ingredients in a food mixer and beat until a smooth mixture forms. An early recipe from Hannah Glasse in 1747, says that beating the mixture by hand takes an hour! No thank you, lady. Add to a lined 23cm long loaf tin and – here is where I may disagree with Grigson – bake at 180 oC for one hour and 5 minutes. When I baked mine I checked after 45 and it was overdone! I think that 30 minutes may be enough, though my loaf tin, although 23cm long, does seem quite wide.

The butter cream is a custard-based one, which sounded very nice. It was quite easy too, now that I’m sufficiently experienced in the art if custard-making. My amounts differ to Jane’s because I didn’t have enough butter, or the right sized eggs, but it made enough for a middle and top layer to the cake:

In a food mixer, whisk 2 egg yolks and 2 1/2 ounces of sugar until it becomes fluffy and very pale. Meanwhile boil 90 mls (a generous 2 fluid ounces). When it comes to a boil, beat it into the egg mixture. Quickly return to the pan and stir on a low heat of a couple of minutes – it should thicken very rapidly. It was hard to judge as the was so much foam; however, as it cooled and the foamy bubbles began to pop, it became noticeably thicker. When the whole thing begins to get cooler, but it still warm, gradually whisk in 5 ounces of very soft butter cut into small cubes. I then added a few drops of vanilla extract. When it is properly cold, use as required!

I simply cut the cake lengthwise in half and added a thin layer of raspberry jam and a thick layer of the butter cream and sandwiched the two halves together, then I spread the rest of the gooey cream on the top.

#47 Pound cake – 6/10. Little disappointed in the cake. It was very tasty, but rather dry. However, this may be my own fault as I haven’t got used to my new oven yet. The vanilla sugar that I’d made a cuople of weeks earlier, also gave the sponge a nice, sweet scent.

#48 Butter cream II – 8/10. A lovely creamy, but not overly sickly alternative to normal butter cream. I loved it, and shall be definitely doing it again!